Book Recs: Romance enriched with time and age
August 9, 2019 9:51 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for books with relationships that are between two people who are mature adults and have a long history with each other. Bonus points if women aren't written as symbols, and if the relationship ends positively!

I'm in the mood to read something romantic, but of a very specific sort. I want to read about a relationship between two mature adults who have a long history with each other - either they've been with each other for a long time, or they met and left each other long ago and have just reconnected.

It's a bit of a proxy to find a relationship that's emotionally intelligent and between emotionally intelligent people, but I am also quite tired of reading about young people and their first relationships. When I watch a TV show or a movie and there are two older people who look at each other with the weight of their age and just how deeply they know each other and they flash a rueful smile - oooo give me the words running through their heads please.

Super duper bonus points for if the relationship ends positively - I was burned by Brienne and Jaime in the last season of Game of Thrones, I don't think I can go through that again this year.

Other bonus points for:

* women being written with complexity, nuance, and some degree of a modern understanding of feminism - I've attempted some "classic romantic literature," and I'm exhausted by how many women are written as symbols/hysterical/representatives of the feminine essence
* between POC
* not about neurotic academics/artists
* they don't have a secret love-child
posted by facehugger to Media & Arts (12 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
It’s not a perfect fit but the closest book I’ve read to what you’re describing is The Wedding Party by Jasmine Guillory, which I loved. It’s a romance between two great people, both adults with friends and lives and jobs they care about deeply. They’ve known each other for years through a mutual friend who is now getting married and has asked them both to be in her wedding party, they realize they need to get along better for their friends sake despite years of mutual dislike. Female characters are feminists and modern. No academics or artists and both the main couple and many of the supporting cast are POC. No love child.

It has a positive ending, also it’s hella cute.

I do think these characters are younger then you’re looking for, I’d peg them late 20s-early 30s, but there none of that first love vibe, just two people connecting and finding surprise and delight in it.
posted by lepus at 10:48 PM on August 9, 2019 [1 favorite]

If you're OK with a romance novel that's part of a sci-fi world, you might want to try "Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen" by Lois McMaster Bujold. The romance is primary in this novel -- it is not at all about guns and battles, but instead is a quiet story about people finding themselves. The focus is on individual lives rather than on nations or planets.

Cordelia (70's?) is the female lead. She already has grandchildren, but her expected lifespan is such that she has another 40+ years left after her husband died. She has lived an eventful and historic life, and is approaching her retirement from planetary leadership with a very clear sense of who she is and what her priorities are.

Jole (50) is the male lead. He is career military, already of high rank and targeted for higher, who everybody thinks is a committed bachelor. He is also bi, and has *ahem* history with Cordelia. Cordelia makes him an offer that upends his world, and much of the book is him discovering and coming to terms with new ambitious, outside the previously-all-consuming focus of his military career.

From your description, I think you'd enjoy the main characters' interactions with their younger family/colleagues/subordinates/etc., in addition to their relationship with each other. I found the ending to be positive =)

While this is part of an established universe, Bujold wrote all of the books so a new reader could start with whichever book found its way into their hands first. I think the story is (always) richer for having the full series' context, but I also think that this would be a satisfying standalone read.
posted by Metasyntactic at 10:50 PM on August 9, 2019 [4 favorites]

You can give me all the genre fiction! I will look askance at European medieval fantasy but hey, the power of Brienne and Jaime have gotten me to read all of ASOIAF in 3 months so...
posted by facehugger at 10:52 PM on August 9, 2019

If you haven't already read Jane Austen's Persuasion then you should grab a copy soon. The adaptation with Ciaran Hinds as Wentworth is very very good too.
posted by harriet vane at 12:03 AM on August 10, 2019 [13 favorites]

major pettigrew's last stand fits your criteria, I think. And since harriet vane just posted, the Lord Peter Wimsey books with her (Gaudy Nights is the first) might also work, except for the lack of POC and her being a bit younger.
posted by meijusa at 1:12 AM on August 10, 2019 [4 favorites]

Persuasion is the trope-namer here. Anne Elliott is 27, but in Regency terms, she might as well be 40. I think there may be a Bollywood adaptation (if there isn't, there should be!)

I also really like the Harriet Vane/Peter Wimsey books, but the order is Strong Poison (they meet when he investigates her innocence after she is accused of poisoning her lover), then Have His Carcase, and Gaudy Night completes the trilogy. But Gaudy Night is the most explicitly feminist, as it takes place in a women's college and revolves around the question of what women should /should not do. Keep in mind that Dorothy L Sayers writes some jarring anti-Semitic stereotypes, though, and Lord Peter proposes like 5 million times, in what may be the first ever depiction of the Nice Guy in fiction. So aspects of the books haven't aged well in the last hundred years, but their relationship otherwise fits your criteria.

I just finished Miss Buncle's Book, by DE Stevenson, which is a delightful story of a quiet English village which is upended when introverted spinster Barbara Buncle (age unspecified but at least late 30s?) writes a satirical roman à clef about the town and it becomes a best-seller. The romance is secondary to the comic plot, but it's there, and there is also a positive description of a Boston marriage as well.
posted by basalganglia at 2:10 AM on August 10, 2019 [5 favorites]

I’d say the Outlander books, especially beginning with book 2.

Anne Tyler’s Breathing Lessons springs to mind but I think a lot of her books would fit the bill.

And maybe the Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes series by Laurie R. King? Although Mary is much younger than Sherlock.
posted by bluebird at 3:55 AM on August 10, 2019 [1 favorite]

Ursula Le Guin's fourth Earthsea book, Tehanu, has what you want, but the romance is just one part of the book. And to fully appreciate it, you have to have already read the first three books.
posted by Redstart at 6:16 AM on August 10, 2019 [2 favorites]

I am always happy to shill for Kate Christensen, and her latest book might scratch this itch for you nicely.

The Last Cruise has three main storylines, and one concerns two colleagues finding love after a lifetime of working together. This WaPo review is non-spoilery and captures the book well.
posted by minervous at 6:57 AM on August 10, 2019

Not a romance, and I'm not certain you'd call it a happy ending, but Ha Jin's Waiting hits a lot of your other requests
posted by Mchelly at 8:49 PM on August 10, 2019

The Martin Beck mystery novels, while the romance is definitely not central to the plot of every one, were interesting to me in this way.

Beck, in the first few books, is unhappily partnered and bummed about his relationship with his kids. In later books (there are 10 all told) he has met a woman his age who is busy and not always available to him, but who is a forceful, busy person who eventually allows him in to her life. His description of his desire for her is powerfully unlike any other I have encountered, full of interest in her as a whole person, a mind at home in a body. I wish I could remember which of the books it’s in - but it’s one of the later ones.

The authors are Per Wahloo and Maj Slowall. They are good mystery novels if you like that genre.
posted by Lawn Beaver at 2:04 PM on August 11, 2019

Okay, so this is not a romance. Which I know is what you asked for. But I keeping coming back to PS I Spook You by SE Harmon. Because I like the level of adulthood and maturity the main character is at, especially when it comes to his ex, who he still loves. And their breakup, which made sense and wasn't ridiculous. It is primarily a murder mystery, with supernatural elements, but it's surprisingly funny for it's subject matter, and I adore the two men in it.

If you want a straight romance, Once Upon a Marquess by Courtney Milan is enjoyable. I liked that there was a bunch of other things happening beyond the romance, so it wasn't a navel-gazer. That said, it is pretty white. The Pursuit of... is very loosely in the same series (read in either order) and has interracial romance, but no women. Her Every Wish has interracial & straight, comes after Once Upon a Marquess, but not so much so that you couldn't read it first if you felt like it.

Bingo Love may fit the bill best. It's about Black women who met again after having raised families, when they'd been separated as teens.

You might also use the search term "second chance". It's not going to yield only the mature love you're looking for, but a lot of it will be.
posted by Margalo Epps at 5:40 PM on August 12, 2019

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